AM + PM
Attention Messaging combines two ideas: attention marketing (AM) and push messages (PM). Attention marketing is about capturing a user’s attention. Attention is upstream of actions and transactions. Push messages are the way to get attention. In the pre-digital world, attention was grabbed via arresting ads and amazing copywriting. They were all about generating mass interest and desire – be it a car, shampoo, cereal or vacation. Fulfilment was done in the physical world when we went out and purchased the advertised product. In the digital world, a new factor came into play – each of us had identifiers and thus could be tracked and targeted individually. Mass advertising was still possible, but the attractiveness of targeting by age, gender, location, interest and time created the world of adtech. What’s more, every action of ours could be recorded and stored forever creating a composite persona, thus leading to “data is the new oil” and “if you’re not paying for it, you become the product” memes.
Among our identifiers were addresses that allowed us to be digitally communicated. The physical mailbox was replicated in the digital world with inboxes tied to our email addresses and mobile numbers, or proxies based on them. This led to the rise of Gmail, SMS, push notifications and the social media streams. Most have a mix of personal and commercial messages. We favour the former over the latter. As the ease of pushing messages to us rose, spam and unsolicited messages skyrocketed. What did not change was our time. Our attention thus got fragmented, and we entered a new era of attention recession.
Brands push messages, but we choose to ignore, so brands push even more. Since the cost of sending messages is low, the RoI economics justify sending more and more. Email as a channel has an RoI of almost 40:1, so why should a brand not flood our inboxes! Of course, we can unsubscribe, but how many of us actually do?
It is in this context that we need “Attention Messaging”. I define it as push messages that reward attention. The word “reward” is a positive word – we all like to be rewarded when we have done something. Rewards create a feel-good and leave us wanting more. This is in contrast to “grabbing” our attention which can be done with click-bait headlines, but that doesn’t lead to a relationship. Fool me a couple of times and I respond by ignoring the messages forever. So, instead of thinking of a one-off click which can be self-defeating over time, Attention Messaging offers marketers a way to build long-term relationships – changing the recipient’s mindset from ‘delete’ to ‘delight.’
Attention Messaging is about pushing messages – thus letting the brand control when attention is sought. Brands can do messaging on their site and in the app also – personalised recommendation, nudges, pop-ups, and so on. I don’t see these as part of Attention Messaging – they are the sequel. Only after attention comes the action – which could entail a click to a website or app. But without the attention, there is no action.
Attention Messaging is thus about using push messages to get and reward attention, thus laying the foundation for a win-win relationship. It is about creating a habit of always opening and never ignoring brand messages. It is about creating a friendship, a relationship, a two-way engagement. It is a theme most marketers have not explored deeply – because it has been all too easy to ‘push’ money to Big Tech. Smart marketers need to make the shift by making attention as the new acquisition.